Every year, CES starts out the year for technology fans with a bang. It’s no different this year, as thousands of tech and electronic companies took to the floor to show off their best innovations. These are the ones we liked best.
The Taiwanese company showed off their all-electric Smartscooter, along with the plan for the network of battery-swapping kiosks that will power it. The vehicle itself is very impressive, with plenty of clever features, but the network itself is the really ambitious part. Instead of being plugged in for hours to recharge like conventional electric vehicles, the Smartscooter uses swappable battery modules that you can retrieve at Gogoro kiosks littered throughout the city, allowing you to get your scooter fully-charged in just a few seconds. If successful, this could pave the way electric vehicle battery-swapping stations that are just as ubiquitous as the gasoline stations we have now and that’s a big deal.
Sure, there were some exiting smartphone-operated drones at CES. For our money, though, the Bionic Bird takes the cake as the coolest of the lot. Forget rotors and propellers, this thing, which looks like a bird, flaps its wings like a real bird to catch air. We won’t be surprised if cats try to eat this or hunters try to shoot it down – the darn thing looks like a genuine small bird, rather than a radio-controlled flying toy. Do note, the toy doesn’t look like it’s the most durable flyer ever made (those plastic wings look like they’ll break on a hard crash), but having to spend on extra parts to put it back together sounds like a worthy undertaking for the kind of fun you can have flying a winged creature.
The German automaker showed up with one of the most outrageous and radical concept cars fertile imaginations can concoct. And it’s self-driving, to boot. It’s also something CES, the place where all cutting-edge tech is celebrated, probably needed badly.
Outside, the vehicle is as futuristic a design as you can imagine, something you aren’t likely to see anywhere other than a science fiction movie. Inside, it looks more like a music lounge straight out of the Jetsons than a car, with reflective surfaces, white and blue mood lighting, four lounge chairs that swivel so all passengers can face each other if they wanted, barn-style doors for a large entryway, six display panels, and button-free controls for everything (both touch and gestures are recognized). It runs on a hybrid electric and fuel cell powertrain.
Mercedes actually thinks they can realize a car like this by 2030, too. We don’t know what to think, but we appreciate the audacity.
While I wish the Activite Pop found a way to integrate basic smartphone notifications, its function as an affordable fitness tracker you can actually wear everywhere without looking out of place has been much-needed in the activity tracking field. With looks reminiscent of the old Swatch watches you probably wore in your teens, it’s the second nicest-looking fitness band we’ve ever set sights on. The nicest, of course, remains its more expensive brother, last year’s Withings Activite, but this will do fine for those who aren’t willing to drop $500 on an erstwhile activity tracker.
The Belfie Stick is either one of the coolest or one of the most annoying things at the halls of CES. For purposes of this list, we’re embracing the former, just due to the sheer absurdity of this modified selfie stick. Designed for easing the process of taking “belfies” (butt selfies), it’s a bendable stick that lets you comfortably aim a phone at your behind to satisfy every Kim Kardashian Instagram fantasy you’ve ever entertained.
Our favorite toy at CES? This $400 robot called Meccanoid G15 KS that you can assemble using Erector-like parts, then subsequently train to do your bidding. You don’t have to code to program it, either, with three dead simple options available for teaching it movement sequences and sounds. Kids can then tie each movement and audio recording to a specific voice command, so when they yell “Kidnap my sister,” the robot will proceed to run towards her with threatening motions. It can hold up to 100 of these voice commands, too, so each robot can have dozens upon dozens of tricks up its mechanized sleeve.
Know how Keurig shook up gourmet coffee by letting you easily make single-serve cups of delicious brews at home? Cooki is similar in a lot of ways. Instead of a coffee machine, though, it’s a cooking robot that will make single-serve recipes from pre-packaged fresh ingredients you can buy at the price of $5 or under a meal. It’s still just a prototype and probably a year (or more) away from a commercial version, but the sight of a robot arm stirring a pot of dish and adding ingredients all by itself is a little too intriguing not to arouse our curiosities.
Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Moment
Like many of B&O’s other products, the BeoSound Moment, a thoughtfully-designed music controller, isn’t aimed at the mass market of consumers. And even if you were in the target demographic of individuals with excessive expendable income, the chance you actually need this beautiful piece of hardware is very slim. Yet, it’s so compellingly beautiful that if you did have the spare cash for one, it’s highly likely you’ll be considering adding it to your home entertainment setup.
The latest aftermarket car dashboard from Parrot, the RNB 6 is a double-DIN head unit with 55 watts per four channel output, a 7-inch HD touchscreen, HDMI input for external video, onboard storage for multimedia content, satellite radio inputs, and, of course, AM/FM radio. The standout feature, though, is support for both Android Auto and Carplay, so you can equip your car with either state-of-the-art infotainment systems, depending on what phone you currently own.
We’ve heard of several things brewing in the over-the-air charging space, but Energous used CES to show off their working WattUp Power Router, which can charge up to 12 gadgets wirelessly (smartphones, tablets, wearables, and any other battery-powered device that requires less than 10W of input) over the air within a 15-feet radius at the exact same time. It’s still early days for the technology, but they’re moving fast, with a reference design for both the router and the receiver due in six months, and several licensing partnerships that could bring the product to market as early as next year.
A new service from Dish Network, Sling TV will stream channels previously only available on cable over the internet for $20 a month, letting you enjoy programming you can’t find anywhere else without a traditional cable subscription. Does this make tablets and laptops the new TV? In a lot of ways for many people, they already are – the services are just starting to catch up.
Asctec Firefly with Intel’s RealSense
RealSense is a groundbreaking technology that Intel developed as an alternative interface for computing – one that did pretty unreal things. At CES, the company showed its wide-ranging applications, as it fitted Ascending Technologies’ Asctec Firefly drone with RealSense-powered cameras, turning out an autonomous flight bot that can fly through a highly-crowded space and avoid obstacles in their path with startling accuracy. Intel is also making this application widely available soon, so we’re likely to see it used in the next generation of flying robots.
Makerbot Composite PLA Filament
3D printing has grown into its own, going from an obscure niche industry to something approaching mainstream popularity in just a few years. While Makerbot’s new PLA Composite Filament still isn’t likely to make 3D printers a must-have peripheral for majority of households, it could definitely help push it another rung up the ladder. Rather than merely plastics, the new filaments will consist of plastic mixed with more traditional building materials, including maple wood, limestone, iron, and bronze, letting you create prototypes that better resemble real-world objects in both appearance and feel, whether you’re printing a metal chair, a wooden box, or a decorative tile.
A pair of in-ear headphones sounds awfully small to cram some serious hardware into. That, however, is exactly what Bragi did with the Dash, supplementing its ability to stream music and calls over Bluetooth with a whole host of unprecedented features. You know, like its own standalone media player with accompanying 4GB of storage; basic fitness tracking tech (counts steps and all that); heart-rate monitor; and even an oxygen saturation sensor. Oh yeah, the software will also include a personal trainer module that will bark commands in your ear like a virtual coach. To top it all off, it comes with integrated touch controls that you perform by simply making gestures on the surface of the buds. Seriously, all that in a tiny pair of in-ear gadgets.
All the TVs
There was no shortage of beautiful TV sets on this year’s show. From Samsung’s SUHD 4K TV’s with their quantum dot technology to LG’s 77-Inch Flexible 4K Ultra OLED that can curve and flatten out at will to an absurd 110-inch 8K glasses-free 3D set, the show was flooded with the latest and greatest sets wanting to make space in people’s living rooms. The best news in all this? Regular 4K panels are no longer the premium showcase tech, ensuring the currently dropping prices for ultra-HD keep going down.
Connected smoke detectors that send you notifications when there’s trouble are nothing new. Whether you’re willing to swap it in place of your existing units, however, is another matter entirely. If you’d rather not, you might just want to pick up the Roost Smart Battery, a 9-volt replacement battery that will automatically turn your legacy smoke detectors into a modern, smart system. Armed with sound sensors, the battery’s smart features will lay dormant until it hears your smoke alarm’s blaring noise, which triggers it to hop onto your WiFi network and send your phone a notification. Even better, the darn thing is rated to last five years, with an integrated notification system that will badger you with reminders to replace the battery when it detects the end coming up.
A bread machine that makes rotis and wraps, it produces freshly baked flat bread at the push of a button. Simply fill the three containers with their respective ingredients (flour, water, and oil), select cooking settings from an integrated LCD screen (you can specify the thickness, crispness, and oil content), and set it in motion. It takes roughly a minute to produce a serving, allowing you to crank out plenty in just a few minutes of wait.
Does the world need a smart rubber ducky? Apparently, it does and it’s here in the form of Edwin the Duck, an app-enhanced smart toy that will read children stories while they sit on the tub and clean off the day’s accumulated grime. The toy duck can also interact with several bundled mobile games, as well as alert parents when the bath water starts getting a little too hot for the kids.
The newest evolution of the popular electric skateboard, the Zboard 2 is lighter, faster, and looks a heck of a lot better than its predecessor. It runs on a 500-watt brushless motor, propelling it to cruising speeds of up to 20 mph, with regenerative braking that extends the range to 24 miles (there’s also a battery indicator on the nose of the deck, so you know exactly when to go easy on the motor). Oh yeah, the new shape of the deck also makes carving easier, making for an overall more fun ride.
At CES 2015, BMW showed off their new 360-degree collision avoidance system, which made it all but impossible to crash an i3 fitted with the tech, whether unwittingly or intentionally. Using high-accuracy next-gen sensors, the vehicles can detect obstacles on the front, back, and sides, automatically applying the brakes when it detects any part of the car running smack into an obstacle. It can also differentiate between potential accidents and when you’re simply maneuvering the car in tight corners, so you don’t have to worry about the ride shutting down at an awkward angle while you’re in the middle of parallel parking.
So these were our picks. Please let us know your favorites in the comments below.